It was an accident.
I never thought I’d stay.
What crazed Westerner would call a place home where you blow out twenty black boogers a day?
Bangkok first came as “One Night in Bangkok” through my FM headphones while I was young,
Twenty years later, I’d be living amongst the pollution and coughing up a lung.
I walked out of the cold airport into mugginess at 3:00 a.m.,
And knew in that moment life might not ever be the same again.
A solo woman, ready to take on the world.
A backpack stashed with crisp Ben Franklins and clothes that had been furled.
Then it happened, I decided to stay the next year,
I found myself three-stories of teak-floors, a UN contract, and an Aussie roommate who shared beer.
Next came the house cleaners, with the local custom being to hire not just one, but two.
They filled our water jug with Bangkok’s tap water, which must have come from klongs polluted with poo.
I turned to my international friends and complained,
“Where do you find good help on 400 baht a day?”
Because this is how it worked in Bangkok, the social rules for expatriates were unspoken.
The locals told you “Yes,” when they meant “No,” and you were left feeling broken.
White skin translated into paying double the price,
It didn’t matter if you spoke five tones of their language or came off nice.
This game of Thai had to be perfected, played just right,
It was the only way life as a foreigner in Bangkok would remain light.
So I learned the game of patience, and waited for hours at the post office with a smile,
Even when they told me my packages were lost, I laughed in the wake of denial.
Playing their game like this gave me access to Thai neighbors and friends,
With one chauffeuring me around in her Mercedes, and another dragging me to clubs that were the latest trend.
Then there were the Thai teachers I volunteered with in Kindergarten in the slums,
They peeled my shrimp and took off the legs so that all I could say was, “Yum!”
And the Thai women on the street who took care of me like no others,
Som tam, pad thai, na?am ma?-naao, whatever was my druthers.
The toothless grin of my condo’s security guard who greeted me every day,
And the fruit guy who rang his bell so I could catch him in my PJs.
I learned to crave chili and garlic over sugar with the rising sun,
And that rats in the alley tamed by street folk could be kind of fun.
Or the ten-cent bus driver who drove like the devil on a mission,
And the motorcycle taxis that whipped me around in my favorite side-saddle position.
But is was the silence in the morning, before the two stroke engines polluted the air,
Or the cockroaches on that first night in my home that crawled all throughout my hair.
All of these moments were a conglomeration of who I am today.
World traveler, free spirit, and a woman who sometimes writes silly poems for pay.
If it weren’t for Bangkok, and why I lived there, I may not be who I am.
Because foreign experiences are where I have discovered many of life’s plans.
Photo: Sleeping on the Job, courtesy of the author.